Cask Beers

20 June 2018 Published in Haas Style Blog

Well here we are again, our weekly chat. I want to talk about cask beer, or real ale, or pins or

firkins. These are mostly the same thing or at least in the same ballpark. These are all traditional ways of conditioning and serving beer. It is most recognized as british but is traditional in other grand beer cultures. People get very excited as well as fired up about the details and dispensing of their beer. In the 70’s CAMRA (campaign for real ale)was started as an organization to promote and protect real ales. There are list of who and who isn’t pouring real ale. In the early 1970s CAMRA coined the term 'real ale' for traditional draught cask beers to distinguish them from processed and highly carbonated beers being promoted by big brewers.
CAMRA defines real ale as beer that is produced and stored in the traditional way and ferments in the dispense container to produce a reduction in gravity. It is also dispensed by a system that does not apply any gas or gas mixture to the beer other than by the traditional Scottish air pressure system.


That’s a lot to take in, but basically it mean the beer does some fermentation in the serving vessel and is dispensed with gravity not pushed out with CO2 as most beers are. This can be served with a hand pump as many pubs and bars have or using gravity from a firkin or pin. If you haven’t seen a firkin it looks like a keg on it’s side with a spout driven in the one end in order to dispense from. All of these ways of serving have a way of making the beer have a different flavor. Real ales are usually served warmer to accentuates the malt and hop aromas and are also served with less dissolved CO2 than normal beers. This gives the beer less of a gas bite and is smooth, not unlike some nitro beers. But we are getting sidetracked with nitro beers right now. We have to stay on cask beers. Personally I love cask beers, mainly ones served through a beer “engine” or pump.

Two reasons why I like cask beer on an engine:

1. The warmer temps bring out the malt and hop aromas in the beer and the lowered CO2 is nice when you want to DRINK a beer.

2. Cask is not a popular style of serving so if you see it on , there must be a brewer who is excited and dedicated to it. That usually turns into great beer.


There are also a lot of breweries and bars doing firkins out there. Although usually traditional, we Americans have tended to go for the unusual ingredients in firkins. Things not always associated with beer. The small amount and limited time of these serving vessels makes it easy to experiment. Hope you can get out there and try some Real Ale or a firkin when you get a chance. Try Wednesdays at RoHa. Let me know what you think. And let us know if you have a question or something you want me to write about. I’ll put it on the list. Cheers